The Steelers brought back three offensive lineman this week in Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky and Trai Essex. All three players are back on one year deals; Foster and Legursky signed their restricted free agent tenders and Essex signed a one year deal to return to Pittsburgh. All three players played major roles for the Steelers in 2011 as starters or filling in for the continous injuries that plagued the Steelers line a year ago. However, none of the three is considered an elite player and guranteed starter heading into the 2012 season.
Legursky, who has played both guard positions and center, is almost more valuable as a back-up than a starter. Essex, who played at all 5 offensive line positions in 2011, also falls under the role of a great back-up. Essex and Legursky have the versatility that teams love in players, but that versatility also makes them valuable as back-ups rather than as starters.
Foster, on the other hand, is primarily a guard and showed in 2011 that he could become a solid starter in the NFL. He took the starting left guard job from Chris Kemoeatu twice during the 2011 season and showed promise. If Foster can improve over the offseason he could be an option at either guard spot for 2012 even if he is placed there as a stop gap for a 2012 draft pick.
Issues with Essex’s weight have held him back in the past, but he recently released a new picture via twitter showing fans a much more trimmed down version of himself. Essex did not release his official weight, but looks very good. This is a promising sign as Essex may be able to move back to tackle if his weight loss has brought added movement and athleticism. If Essex could move back to tackle as the primary back-up to Willie Colon and Marcus Gilbert the Steelers line could be set; for back-ups at least.
All three of these players will have a shot at starting on the Steelers 2012 offensive line, but one of the guard positions will likely go to a first or second round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The other spot will likely go to one of these three players. Unless of course the Steelers move Colon back to guard, where he started his NFL career, and target an offensive tackle in the draft.
These are three great resignings for the Steelers, but this does not solve the Steelers offensive line problems. They say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; well, with the Steelers blocking issues up front I think it is fair to say the Steelers offensive line is “broke” which in my estimations leads to “then fix it.” This is a solid start, but the Steelers still need two starting guards to fill out the 2012 offensive line. Hopefully they will find at least one in the 2012 Draft, but who will the other be? Steelers fans can hope Foster, Legursky, or Essex can be that guy.